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Skilling’s new home? It could be worse

Tue., Dec. 12, 2006

WASECA, Minn. — The former Enron chief who once resided in a $4.7 million, Mediterranean-style mansion in Houston’s toniest neighborhood will spend most of the next quarter-century with three other prison inmates in a converted college dorm room.

Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive officer of Enron, reports Tuesday to the Federal Correctional Institute here to serve his 24-year sentence on fraud and conspiracy charges.

The low-security prison, which sits on the city limits of this town of 8,400 people 75 miles south of Minneapolis, has a low profile in the federal penal system and is little known even to most Minnesotans. While the surroundings will pale in comparison to Skilling’s former high-flying lifestyle, former staff and inmates at the prison said there are worse places to land.

“For me, it wasn’t the worst experience,” said the Rev. Chuck Butler, a retired Methodist minister from nearby Rochester. Butler spent three months in the prison in 2000 after several trespassing arrests for protesting on Georgia’s Fort Benning Army base.

“The food they served was actually quite good. It used to be a university extension site, so you’d walk into certain parts and immediately feel like you were on a college campus,” he said.

The site was a branch campus of the University of Minnesota until 1992, when it was shuttered in a round of cost cutbacks Today the 80-acre facility houses 1,070 federal inmates.

Most inmates were lower-level players in the drug trade, according to Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She said Skilling won’t be among many other white-collar criminals.


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